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Henry Judd

Wallace: ‘A Pint of Milk And Pair of Shoes’

(June 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 25, 22 June 1942, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Let us give the man his due! Vice-President Henry A. Wallace is the first of the United Nations leaders and spokesmen to give a specific and concrete statement of what his war aims are.

After we have won the war, said Wallace in a recent speech, we intend to see to it that every man and child throughout the world has “a pair of shoes” and “a pint of milk per day,” Here, at last, after three years of waiting, after endless speeches filled with pious hopes and empty phrases, here, at last, is something we can sink our teeth into!

“A pint of milk and a pair of shoes!” In a world where destruction reigns supreme, where the greatest efforts of the powers that be are directed solely toward the ruination of the means of livelihood and production, this demand is nothing to sneeze at. The tens of millions of white and black sharecroppers in the South have neither; nor do the people of Europe’s ruined territories, nor the great masses of the Orient. If by this aim Wallace means the social advancement of the masses everywhere, the raising of universal living standards, the achievement of social security and economic liberation – then that is the revolutionary program of Labor Action.

But shall we take these phrases seriously?

Whose words are they; from whose mouth? Is this not the same man who – as Secretary of Agriculture – advanced his program of “a pair of shoes and a pint of milk,” during the days of bitter crisis after 1929, by originating the program of plowing under cotton, burning wheat, slaughtering hogs and pigs, curtailing all farm and dairy production? Of course it is! It is the same Triple-A Wallace, now ambitiously maneuvering for the 1944 presidential race. It is the same man who, in the name of American capitalism, said we could pave our way back to prosperity by destroying the means of life.

Furthermore, how can we take seriously this “war aim” when it is put forward in the name of the very opposite: capitalism, a system of class exploitation and production for profit. Wallace tells us that we must first win the war (that is, achieve the destruction and prostration of our enemies’ economic system in Asia and Europe) and then we shall have abundance. Abundance under what social order? Abundance without freeing Asia from Western imperialism; and America and Europe from the stranglehold of capitalism? Abundance through militarism, and war, and bombardments for years on end? We cannot take this seriously.

What Are Our War Aims?

In the past few weeks the official spokesmen in America have come forward in lengthy speeches and editorials stating their “war aims.” They seek to answer the perpetual question that arises in the mind of all working people: What are we fighting for?

Wallace has made at least three speeches (including this latest), all of them on the same theme of “the people’s war,” “the common man’s war.” He has emerged as the left wing spokesman of the New Deal democrats – the “radical” Vice-President.

Roosevelt, our President, has likewise raised his voice in an effort to allay these incessant demands of the people to know what the shooting is all about. In a letter to our soldiers abroad he wrote:

“You are not only fighting for your country and your peoples – you are, in the larger sense, delegates of freedom.”

The New York Times, commenting upon the Russo-American lend-lease agreement, says:

“It is to establish freedom, security and economic prosperity upon this earth that we plan to increase our lease-lend shipments to Russia, and that the United States and Britain have committed themselves to a second front.”

Even the Atlantic Charter has been revived, after lying dormant for many months!

Why this sudden and furious interest in “war aims” and the post-war world? “When the Greeks come bearing gifts, let us beware!” When the imperialists and the war-makers, when the “economic planners” and the men who cure poverty by plowing under, when the phony politicians and the “liberal” New Dealers come to us with grandiose promises and enchanted pictures of the future – then, too, let us be on our guard.

Preparation for the Slaughter

They have something up their sleeves? This slew of statements, describing our “war aims” and our “victory objectives” have something more behind them than to allay the people’s fear and nervousness regarding WHY the war is being fought.

These speeches and statements seek primarily to prepare the mind of the American people, to lay the ideological groundwork for the greatest military and economic suffering that our country has ever undergone. They seek to make us believe that the enormous sacrifices in lives that a second front in Europe will mean; plus losses in the Asiatic wars; plus a still greater curtailment of living standards and goods in America – they seek to bamboozle us into believing that all this is worth while. Nay, that we should be only too willing and ready to make the sacrifices of life and material wealth, because we shall reap rich rewards.

This is what lies behind the hypocritical statements of the American Vice-President and his colleagues in deception. The American ruling class, bursting at the seams with war-like energy as it embarks to wage war at every front scattered throughout the world, wants to pull the wool over the eyes of the working class with its chatter about “a pint of milk and a pair of shoes.”

But bitter hardship will teach all of us that flying fortresses and machine guns do not yield milk or make shoes. Only those who have a program for ending the war in the name of the people, for constructing a new world order based upon the working class – only they can guarantee the peace and prosperity that will give “a pint of milk and a pair of shoes” to all of us.

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